Chairperson Sen. Lathrop and Judiciary Committee Board Members
District #12, Room 1103 State Capitol
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
February 3, 2022
Dear Senator Lathrop and Judiciary Committee Members,
My name is Jasmine L. Harris. I am the Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for RISE. I request that this testimony be included as part of the public hearing record that shows RISE is in support of LB1155.
RISE is the largest nonprofit organization in Nebraska focused solely on habilitative programming in prisons and reentry support. At RISE, transformation starts pre-release and continues post-release. Our inside/out model bridges incarceration to the community and considers all the critical steps in that journey. We prepare and train people for each phase through intensive character development, employment readiness, job creation through entrepreneurship, family programming and case management. We transform people in the community by building awareness and empathy that leads to support and opportunity. These connections heal families, create employment pathways and lower recidivism. The mission of RISE is to break generational cycles of incarceration.
We continue to ask for alternatives to help alleviate overcrowding, as we see our county jails are dealing with this as well, and the solution must be a proactive approach. At RISE, we believe that alleviation can happen on the front-end by addressing the county jails and the pretrial system. One of these ways is by offering pretrial services programs. Pretrial services programs can offer assistance to individuals with things like substance use and mental health referrals, education enrollment, career placement, housing options, transportation and more. These are the same types of services that we see people need assistance with returning to communities after incarceration. These barriers are not specific to one population (pretrial versus reentry) over another. They are essential necessities in life and providing assistance on the front end of the criminal justice system can have great impact.
Many people facing court do not end up incarcerated in prisons. Some are released on bail or their recognizance while awaiting the next steps in the court process. Some sentences are fines & fees, the few days sitting in jail before bail was made and probation. These individuals are returning to communities in a shorter period of time and if pretrial service programs are in place, this helps them get a start on addressing any areas of their life that may not be managed. During these programs, participants are able to stay within the community before their trial date instead of being detained in the county jail. Participants are able to stay employed, be with their family, and get access to various programs and treatment.
In 2007, an assessment was conducted for North Carolina’s pretrial service programs.1 What they found was that the majority of programs had a successful completion rate (no new arrests or violations to the program stipulations) of 50% or greater. Program termination was uncommon. Termination due to committing a new offense was uncommon, and failing alcohol or drug tests were the least common reason for program termination. This study also compared the cost of the pretrial services and the cost of detaining individuals. The study found that the average cost for participants in the pretrial services was $6.04 a day compared to $57.30 a day to detain an individual. Overall, the study estimated that pretrial services saved an average of $1.05 million per county.
Over the past two and a half years, RISE has participated in a reentry working group and participated in its pretrial task force. One of the salient themes that has been discussed in this group is that there are many counties across the state that are interested in starting a pretrial services program, but they don’t have the funding. LB1155 would allow these counties to access funding to help put these programs in place and address the needs of the individuals as they are awaiting the next steps in the court process and hopefully keep their lives intact.
This is an opportunity to provide alternatives for pretrial detention and for these reasons, RISE supports LB1155 and asks that committee members vote this bill out of committee to General File.
Jasmine L. Harris, MPH, CHES
Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, RISE
1 Pretrial Services Programs in North Carolina: A Process and Impact Assessment